By Andi Sutton
Agricultural productivity technologies for small-holder farmers; food safety solutions for everyday consumers; sustainable supply chain interventions in the palm oil industry; water purification methods filtering dangerous micropollutants from industrial and wastewater streams—these are just a few of the research-based solutions being supported by the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) at MIT. J-WAFS is funding these and other projects through its fifth round of seed grants, providing over $1 million in funding to the MIT research community. These grants, which are funded competitively to MIT principal investigators (PIs) across all five schools at the Institute, exemplify the ambitious goals of MIT’s Institute-wide effort to address global water and food systems challenges through research and innovation.
This year, seven new projects led by nine faculty PIs across all five schools will be funded with two-year grants of up to $150,000, overhead-free. Interest in water and food systems research at MIT is substantial, and growing. By the close of this grant cycle, over 12 percent of MIT faculty will have submitted J-WAFS grant proposals. Thirty-four principal investigators submitted proposals to this latest call, nearly one third of whom were proposing to J-WAFS for the first time. “The broad range of disciplines that this applicant pool represents demonstrates how meeting today’s water and food challenges is motivating many diverse researchers in our community," comments Renee Robins, executive director of J-WAFS. "Our reach across all of MIT’s schools further attests to the strength of the Institute’s capabilities that can be applied to the search for solutions to pressing water and food sector challenges.” The nine faculty who were funded represent eight departments and labs, including the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and Economics, as well as the Media Lab (School of Architecture and Planning), MIT D-Lab (Office of the Vice Chancellor), and the Sloan School of Management.